Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

Posts by Helen Temple

9 March 2021

Proverbs 17:16

Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom,
    when they are not able to understand it?

Even if wisdom could be bought, it still would do the fool no good. But isn’t wisdom exactly what a fool needs? True, but the fool’s problem is that he does not know what to do with wisdom even when given to him.

He may obtain wisdom now. He may turn to a wise counselor now and receive the fruit of wisdom. He may open the Word of God now, the greatest source of wisdom. But his foolish mind will reject the wisdom or else twist it into foolishness.

The fool does not need to buy wisdom. He needs to be transformed by wisdom. How then can he be transformed? That is the work of the Holy Spirit. The wisest of counselors cannot change the foolish mind. At best the wise person can manage the fool. He can perhaps keep the fool from causing harm. But he cannot make the fool become wise. Only the Holy Spirit can do that kind of work.

Be wary of the fool, yet treat him with the love of Christ. Do what you can to alleviate the effects of his folly on others and himself. But do not reason with him as you would another rational mind. And do not give to him responsibility, such as the possession of money that he will only use for harm.

The best you can do (which is truly the best we should do) is to pray for him. Pray for the work of the Spirit in him. And love him with the love of Christ, a love that seeks his good. We were all fools when it came to knowledge of God and redemption. Only the Spirit working in us turned us away from folly to the wisdom of the Gospel. Only the love of God pierced through our darkness.

 

2 Corinthians 7

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

 

Paul’s Joy Over the Church’s Repentance

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.

In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.

8 March

Proverbs 17:15

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—
    the Lord detests them both.

God is not a moral relativist. There are the wicked who do bad, who break his moral law; and there are the righteous who do good, who follow his moral law. To flip them around to justify the wicked and condemn the righteous is an abomination to him.

We see that in our society. Abortionists are good; to oppose abortion is wicked. Sex of any variety is good; to proscribe that sex is reserved for a married couple of man and woman is wicked. To ignore or reject outright the God of the Bible is good; to take his Word seriously is wicked. It is one thing to wink and commit sin; it is another to uphold the sin as good and condemn righteous behavior.

But that is the way that a society that rejects God will go. There is no divine law to inform and restrain. All that is left is to do what seems right in one’s own eyes, and the only measure is inner feeling. This will always lead off the righteous path laid forth by Scripture. For as Scripture explains, the heart itself is sick with sin. What can it do but lead us into sin? And how can we live in sin and remain happy? By calling what is sin good, and what is good sin. Now we are able to live in peace.

However much peace we may feel, God is not at peace with us. Rest assure that the righteous whom he regards as righteous will be justified, and the wicked whom he regards as wicked will be condemned. He will not tolerate abomination.

But how do we get out of our mess? For if we are honest, we still give in to what is wicked. Turn to the Judge and find that he is also the Merciful Redeemer. He does not desire the condemnation of the wicked, but rather that the wicked will turn from their evil ways. Don’t justify your wickedness. Turn to God to save you, to change you.

2 Corinthians 6

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

 

Paul’s Hardships

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

 

Warning Against Idolatry

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
    and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.”[c]

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them
    and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
    and I will receive you.”[d]

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you,
    and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”[e]

6 March 2021

Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 3:16

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, for our sake You fasted forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such self-control that, our flesh being subdued to the spirit, we may always obey Your will in righteousness an true holiness, to Your honour and glory; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore.

5 March 2021

Proverbs 17:14

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam;
    so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

When a container of water cracks, when it is opened only by a hair, water seeps out and cannot be retrieved. Cover it with your hands, put a cloth tightly around it, the water continues to seep. It cannot be contained. And even if you do seal the crack, you cannot reclaim the water. It flows into every crevice nearby. Such is the problem when a pipe leaks. You may find water damage in one place a wall, a ceiling, the floor only to discover that the leak is elsewhere because the water flows to wherever there is least resistance.

So it is with strife. Once it is let out, it travels wherever it can, in different directions wherever there is least resistance. It stains the clean surfaces of the room. It cannot be put back in its container as though it had not spilled out. Wipe the surface dry, patch and paint the stains and cracks; nevertheless, the damage was made and memories keep the strife in storage. There is less trust now, less fellowship. Like undersurface damage that is never restored, so damage in the minds and souls of fellow believers and of neighbors and of family members remain through the years.

And that is assuming effort is made to deal with the strife. More likely, the crack widens into an opening and as water pours forth, so strife pours forth. Now I know where you really stand! I’ve never trusted you and you have proven why! Then the charges multiply and opportunity for recrimination is looked for.

And where all this is likely to happen is in the church amongst the fellowship of the followers of Christ. So quit before the quarrel breaks out! Whatever damage you think will occur because you hold your tongue, consider the damage that will occur when you speak in strife. And if you must speak up, consider what you will say and how you will say it before you speak. Consider how you will help your fellow believer with your words. Consider if that really is your motive. For once the crack is made, the water of strife will come forth.

 

Acts 5

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

 

The Ministry of Reconciliation

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

4 March 2021

Proverbs 17:13

Evil will never leave the house
    of one who pays back evil for good.

Wickedness is troubling in any form. Even so, there are degrees even for evil to climb. It is condemning to do mischief. It is wrong to take advantage of the innocent. But to return evil for good; to harm someone who has done you good is it possible to sink lower?

The scam artist who takes money by posing to represent a charity or to be a person in need that is wicked. He takes advantage, not merely of someone innocent, but of someone doing good. But to go a step further, to take advantage of a person who knows you, who has only been kind to you, and then to use that very kindness to take advantage of him surely that is to sink to the lowest depths.

It certainly is an affront to God who will see that evil will not depart from his house. This is a statement of how greatly offended God is by such behavior.

And what is man’s position before God? He created man and blessed him; man in return turned against him. Even so, he continued to provide for man and by his grace give him many daily blessings. But man rebelled against him all the more, setting up false gods and giving to them the worship due God. Even so, God was patient. He sent prophets to reveal God and to teach what God wanted. But those prophets who themselves abused and murdered.

However much good God did, man returned it with evil. We are man. We are the guilty. But what have we received? Grace, mercy, the priceless gift of Gods Son, his very blood shed for us to pay for our guilt. Instead of evil never departing from our house, we have been given peace. And so, we who have moved from returning evil for good, let us move from returning evil for evil. Let us return good for evil that those who are wicked might be awakened to their sin and turn to God. It is no less than what God has done for us.

 

2 Corinthians 4

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”[b] Since we have that same spirit of[c] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

3 March 2021

Proverbs 17:12

Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs
    than a fool bent on folly.

We laugh at the fool and dismiss him for his nonsensical behavior. But just as we would run for cover when a gun is placed in the hands of a child who thinks he has a toy, so we need all the more to be careful around the fool.

An evil man is dangerous, but if he has his wits about him, he limits his wicked acts to attain his goals. The fool knows no such limits. The fool delights in the attention he receives and the chaos he causes. It is the fool who pulls the fire alarm for fun and pushes someone near the edge of a precipice. It is the fool who yells when silence is needed, who plays with danger. And when he is caught up in the midst of his folly, where others would pull back, he all the more plunges ahead. He does not heed words of caution or rebuke. Reasoning with him only provokes him to more irrational behavior. He knows no boundaries.

And so be careful with him. Do not feed him opportunity to display his folly. Avoid him as much as possible and keep on your guard. Stay alert lest you are taken down or shamed by his foolish outbursts.

 

2 Corinthians 3

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

 

The Greater Glory of the New Covenant

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 March 2021

Proverbs 17:11

Evildoers foster rebellion against God;
    the messenger of death will be sent against them.

Such a person looks at life from the perspective of me versus everyone else. He is in rebellion against everyone because he sees everyone as competitor. The competitor may be someone over him; thus he looks at the competitor as an oppressor, someone whose chains must be thrown off. The competitor may be an equal, whom he sees as a combatant fighting to get ahead of him. The competitor may be under him, whom he regards as someone trying to undermine him. That is the way life is to him each person seeking power for himself. Rules are created by those in power to restrain those below them from rebelling. And so he rebels. He does not merely question authority; he seeks to undermine it.

Such a person must understand that his rebellious spirit and behavior brings the restraint he abhors. The more he rebels, the more competition will rise up. He is now seen as a threat to peace; certainly he is a threat to those over him. Whether those in power are good or evil, they cannot abide rebellion. The cruel messenger is the representative of the authority who comes to restrain the evil man. Whatever oppression he may have felt before, he certainly feels the weight of bondage now.

There is such a thing as righteous rebellion. There are righteous causes that call for rebellion against wicked rule. But be clear about that cause and especially your motive. Rebellion can seem glamorous. It stokes the ego. It allows you to gloss over your own sin as you focus on redressing the perceived wrongs committed against you. It can embitter your soul so that you see life as you versus everyone else, including your Maker.

Rebellion is the mark of the unsaved soul. If that soul is not willing to bend the knee to the righteous Authority who paid the greatest price to win the rebellious and to deliver them from bondage, then know that someday it will be not the messenger of peace who comes to him, but the cruel messenger of wrath.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken”
(Isaiah 1:18-20).

 

2 Corinthians 2

So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.

 

Forgiveness for the Offender

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

 

Ministers of the New Covenant

12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13 I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

1 March 2021

Proverbs 17:10

A rebuke impresses a discerning person
    more than a hundred lashes a fool.

The ultimate distinction between a man of understanding and a fool is not how well they do on an aptitude test but in how well they receive correction. Everyone will make mistakes; everyone sins. What then do they do when their mistake or sin is pointed out?

The fool insists he did not make a mistake or sin. Or he may acknowledge he is in the wrong but then continue in the same behavior. Even though he is reasoned with; even though he is disciplined, he only hardens his attitude. He has his own view of reality, and he will not change. In his folly he is filled with pride which only stiffens when rebuked and disciplined.

The man of understanding needs only a rebuke, and even then only a mild one, because knowing and doing what is right is of ultimate importance to him. He is grateful for correction even if the correction is harsh. It is better to him to be righted than to persist in error or sin. Because he possesses understanding, he is able to listen well and discern the truth of the correction. Because he is not full of foolish pride, he is able to give ear to what is said.

It is foolish, stubborn pride that makes fools out of us. I don’t need this. I don’t care what you say. Punish me all you want; I’ll do what I want. Religion is for weaklings. I’ll live the way I want. Such pride keeps a man from the rebuke that would lead to repentance and everlasting life. Such pride leads a man into an eternity of blows.

 

2 Corinthians 1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise to the God of All Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Paul’s Change of Plans

12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity[b] and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 13 For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, 14 as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.

15 Because I was confident of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?

18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas[c] and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

23 I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.

27 February 2021

Hebrews 10:23-25

 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Prayer: Lord God, You know that we cannot put our trust in anything that we do: help us to have faith in You alone, and mercifully defend us by Your power against all dangers; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

26 February 2021

Proverbs 17:9

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
    but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but…”
“He didn’t want me to tell anyone, but…”
“Did you know…”
“We should be praying for…”

And so begins many a repeating of a matter that creates anger and suspicion that never should have occurred. Every day we say and do things that we should not or did not mean to do. Someone gets frustrated and says something without thinking. Another gets nervous and acts in a way in which he knows better. But the sinful word or deed is now “out there.” Will it be repeated? Will we pass it on, letting it be relived in our mouths and the ears of others?

It depends on how we respond to offense. Jesus said that when we are offended we should go privately to the offender. If that does not resolve the matter, then bring in a witness, then elders. In other words, seek to handle an offense privately with the intent for a peaceful resolution. But this proverb notes that there are times when it is best to overlook an offense. Indeed, if we were to bring up every offense we think we receive, our days would be marked by confrontation. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to bear with one another in love. This assumes that we will be offended, and we are called upon to take much of it in stride. After all, we (more often than we know) offend others. If we were confronted every time we erred in our speech and acts, we would be weighed down in discouragement.

And if our mishaps were repeated – if the unthinking remark was reported or foolish act passed on – then we would be devastated as hurt and anger were compounded. Stop and pray before you confront someone about their offense. And do not repeat a matter unless you are compelled after much prayer. Whenever you share an offensive remark or deed, you place a burden upon the hearer. This is not a matter of minding your own business. It is a matter of acting in love, thinking what is best for everyone. If need be, seek godly counsel what to do. But always keep before you what demonstrates love for neighbor – both the neighbor who offends and the neighbor you are about to tell. Seek love.

 

Acts 28

Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

 

Paul’s Arrival at Rome

11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

 

Paul Preaches at Rome Under Guard

17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”

23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]

28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29] [b]

30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

25 February 2021

Proverbs 17:8

A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it;
    they think success will come at every turn.

This proverb is translated in different ways, and this particular translation can be given two different interpretations: it is observing the way and perspective of the wicked briber but does not agree with him, or it is commenting on the effective use of gifts, another translation of the word.

Other proverbs will comment on the evil use of bribes, but consider for now the appropriate use of gifts that in a sense are bribes. A husband who has offended his wife comes home with flowers to smooth the way for his apology. A new boss – wanting to break the ice his first day – comes in with coffee and doughnuts for his staff. A mother helps her child break into the neighborhood circle by inviting the children over for ice cream. There is a difference between paying off someone with a bribe or manipulating him for favors, and using gifts to smooth transitions and win goodwill.

Someone may reply, “I shouldn’t have to give gifts to butter up anybody.” Such an attitude fails to recognize the need that we all have to be encouraged. And we will respond positively to those who encourage us, and we will be turned off by those who show no interest in how we feel. The person who appropriately gives gifts is giving attention to others. It is true that wicked people do this to manipulate, but wise and good people do this because they truly regard their neighbor and are desiring good results.

Who can you “bribe” today with cheer?

 

Acts 27

When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.

The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a] So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

 

The Storm

13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor[b] and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

 

The Shipwreck

27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic[c] Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet[d] deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet[e] deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

24 February 2021

Proverbs 17:7

Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—
    how much worse lying lips to a ruler!

Fine speech from the mouth of a fool comes out as mockery and sarcasm. That which should be deemed honorable is made to seem silly. The speaker is embarrassing. Having said all that, even worse is for a person of high and noble position to lie. Thus, as bad as it is for a president to be lampooned, it is worse for a president to lie with his noble words. As bad as it may be for those under authority to mock their superiors, the greater sin is committed by those superiors if they abuse their positions through lying. The fools demonstrate their own foolishness; the “princes” betray the character that should be inherent in them. The fools withhold honor they ought to give; the princes betray the honor given to them.

Follow the teaching of 1 Peter 2:16-17:

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

 

Acts 26

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.”

So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.

“The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?

“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”

32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

23 February 2021

Proverbs 17:6

Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
    and parents are the pride of their children.

This is a good reminder of what family relations should be. It is not merely a matter of having children who then have children. It is about investing in your family relationships so that there is a strong, loving bond, and that your children live lives that are deemed honorable.

Fathers can forget this as they neglect their children. The result is the lesson learned by the father in Harry Chapin’s song, “The Cat’s in the Cradle.” The father is too busy to spend time with his son. When the son grows up and gets married, he then becomes too busy to spend time with his father. The father ruefully reflects, “He’d grown up just like me.”

Do you need to do some investing? Perhaps there are some relationships that need recultivating. Grandparents, do not neglect investing in your grandchildren. It is fine to give them presents, but even more they need your wisdom. They may not listen to you now, but they will remember your words. Tell them your stories; tell them about your faith. In coming years that might be what brings them through tough times.

And thank God for the bond between the Father and the Son. Such a bond enabled the Son go through the greatest trial of all. He could do so because he loved the Father who is his glory.

 

Acts 25

Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”

After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.

Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”

Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?”

10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”

12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

 

Festus Consults King Agrippa

13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: “There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.

16 “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”

22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”

He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”

 

Paul Before Agrippa

23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: “King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.”

22 February 2021

Proverbs 17:5

Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
    whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

This is a sober warning for us all. First, we should not be quick to mock anyone. Mocking may have its place, but such times are far fewer than we tend to think. We are quick to mock those whom we do not know and those with whom we differ. As Christians we should be distinguished by the respect we accord even to our opponents. And yet in matters such as politics or social issues, we mock, exaggerate, and misrepresent them. We rejoice over their calamities and are quick to believe the worse in them. This should not be. Our opponents should be surprised by the love and respect we show them.

This proverb specifically speaks of mocking the poor. Such sin is made worse when directed towards those in worse circumstances. “Ah,” you might say, “but so many are in dire straits because of their own sinful behavior.” Do you think we are any different? What do you have that you have not received from your gracious Maker? Would you dare pray to God, “Thank you that I am not like my poor neighbor; I make better decisions”?

How can we mock the poor, we who have nothing to bring to our Maker to pay for our sins? The poor represent outwardly our condition inwardly. Far from mocking the poor, they should serve as reminders to us how merciful is our Maker who did not mock us, but grieved for us and won us to him. How can we mock the poor when our Lord became poor for our sakes, who, indeed, endured mocking by his enemies that we might receive crowns of glory. Let mocking cease.

 

Acts 24

Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. [7] [a] By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

17 “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”

22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

20 February 2021

Romans 12:15

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Prayer: Lord, hear with favour the prayers of Your people, that we who are justly punished for our offences may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness, for the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

19 February 2021

Proverbs 17:4

A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
    a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

Have you ever been frustrated trying to convince others that a rumor is false? You encourage them to think positively about others, but they assume the worse. Maybe you are trying to clear up your own name. You think that if you can only explain clearly the facts, they will listen. If you can only reason with troublemakers, they will see the error of their ways. They must be acting out of misinformation.

The truth is that they are acting out of the information they want to believe. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” The problem of the wicked is not that they did not hear the truth, but that they wanted to hear the lies and mischief.

Jesus bluntly said, “Why do you not understand what I say? it is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:43-44).

What is the application for us? Understand what really is at issue for the wicked. Those who delight in falsehood and mischief are not misinformed people who need education. They are deluded by Satan and need the Holy Spirit to bring them into the light of truth. Pray for the wicked and liars. Pray against Satan who holds them in his grasp. Do not exasperate yourself with trying to reason with them. Concentrate more on giving the gospel and making it plain. Without the Spirit they will still reject you and your message; but do not then yield to frustration. Pray and trust God to do his work.

Furthermore, when your own reputation is under attack, trust God for vindication. You are called to act with a clear conscience before God. It is not on your shoulders to convince those who want to hear lies and mischief. When you are slandered and others believe the slander, what matters most is that you live honorably before the Lord. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

 

Acts 23

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”

Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!”

Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’[a]

Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)

There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.

11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

 

The Plot to Kill Paul

12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”

16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander.

The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”

19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”

20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”

22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”

 

Paul Transferred to Caesarea

23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen[b] to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”

25 He wrote a letter as follows:

26 Claudius Lysias,

To His Excellency, Governor Felix:

Greetings.

27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. 30 When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.

31 So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. 32 The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. 33 When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

18 February 2021

Proverbs 17:3

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
    but the Lord tests the heart.

If the Lord knows our hearts, why does he need to test them? Consider Peter’s teaching:

In this (our inheritance) you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).

The simple lesson is this – our tests in life are not given as profile tests used by God to figure us out. Rather they are given to us to prove and to purify our faith. Just as the crucible and the furnace remove impurities, so tests remove our idolatries, our self-deception, and other sins that cling to us. But they also reveal in us and for us the faith and spiritual strength we did not know we possessed. And they serve as testimony before the world the glory of God.

As Christians, we are not exempt from trials. But we can know that our trials are meaningful tests that ultimately will result in praise and glory and honor for Christ, and even for ourselves as we reflect his image on that final day.

 

Acts 22

“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”

When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.

Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’

19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr[a] Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ 

 

Paul the Roman Citizen

22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”

23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”

26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”

27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered.

28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”

“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.

29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

 

Paul Before the Sanhedrin

30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.

17 February 2021

Proverbs 17:2

A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son
    and will share the inheritance as one of the family.

This is another way of teaching the primacy of wisdom. Other resources can put us in position to succeed, but it is wisdom that takes us to the top and keeps us there. As talented as pro athletes may be, there are others as athletic or even more talented who did not make it to the highest level because of foolish choices. And many a lesser talented team has won over its opponents by outwitting them. So it is in battle and in business and in any area of life. Wisdom can compensate for lacking innate talent or wealth or, as this proverb notes, station in life.

Consider this servant. He is under the command of the son whose shameful acts no doubt include mistreating the servant. But instead of dwelling in self-pity or resentment, he “deals wisely.” He acts for the good of his master and offsets the foolishness of the son. It is necessary to note that the wisdom of the proverbs is never reduced to scheming. The servant does not scheme against the son. Rather, the wisdom of the proverbs is always the wisdom characterized by righteousness and the fear of the Lord. It is the wisdom of integrity. The servant is like Joseph, who regardless of his circumstance, served his masters well so that he could be entrusted for his wisdom and his integrity.

Finally, note the application to the gospel. There are many who have grown up in the church as covenant sons and daughters, and yet have lost their birthright through their shameful choices and behavior. And there are many who grew up outside the church, yet when they heard the gospel, dealt wisely by repenting of their sins and embracing the Master. They moved from the status of servants of sin to sharing in the inheritance as one of the brothers or sisters of Christ. Such is true wisdom.

Acts 21

After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.

We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

15 After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.

 

Paul’s Arrival at Jerusalem

17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

 

Paul Arrested

27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”

 

Paul Speaks to the Crowd

37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”

“Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?”

39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”

40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic[a]:

16 February 2021

Proverbs 17:1

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
    than a house full of feasting, with strife.

This is not a contrast between homes of quiet, mild-mannered families and those of boisterous families, but rather between home of peaceful relations and of conflict. Quiet homes can have their share of conflict. But this kind of quiet is the quiet of peace. It is the home of families who are peace with one another. Such a family is better, even if they may be poor, than a wealthy family with plenty on the table and yet filled with strife.
Peace is better than wealth; it is a greater security than financial possession. For with strife, wealth can be lost; but with peace a family stays together and holds each family member up. With peace comes contentment; wealth without peace brings only anxiety, jealousy, and greed.

It is not better to be poor than wealthy, unless we place wealth on a pedestal. If wealth becomes the aim in life, then strife will naturally accompany it. For we will hurt our loved ones as our ambition and greed take over our lives.

The quiet spirit of peace is what we should desire, for by its very nature it means peace with others, especially our loved ones. That peace begins with the peace of the soul with God, the peace that only Christ can give. Meditate upon the peace that has already been granted you by Christ’s work on the Christ. You are reconciled with God now; how then will such peace be lived out in you today?

 

Acts 20

When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Eutychus Raised From the Dead at Troas

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,a] which he bought with his own blood.b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

15 February 2021

Proverbs 16:33

The lot is cast into the lap,
    but its every decision is from the Lord.

And so we can have peace. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to sort out providence, but Scripture teaches providence and God’s sovereignty so that we might give due honor to God and that we might learn to trust (and rest) in him.

Yes, your decisions today matter. They have real consequences for good and bad, and you will be held accountable for what you choose and do. But take heart in knowing that ultimately all that happens – all that you do – will ultimately work for God’s glory and purposes, even for your good. This is not an excuse for you to cavalierly do whatever; rather it is your hope that your Lord controls your destination. He redeems and restores; he builds even from our destructive behavior. All your bad decisions are turned into purpose-full experience.

Whatever big decisions are before you, know that God is in control and that his purposes will be carried out. Step forward with the confidence that however the lot may fall, he controls the outcome; he will be glorified, and (amazingly) he will do what is good for you who love him through Jesus Christ.

 

Acts 19

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[b] and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.[c] 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

21 After all this had happened, Paul decided[d] to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

The Riot in Ephesus

23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

13 February 2021

Galatians 5:13-15

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Prayer: Almighty Father, whose blessed Son was revealed so that He might destroy the works of the devil and make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: grant that having this hope we may purify ourselves as He is pure; that when he shall appear again with power and glory, we may be made like Him in His eternal and glorious kingdom, where with You, Father, and with the Holy Spirit, He lives and reigns, one God, for evermore. Amen.

12 February 2021

Proverbs 16:32

Better a patient person than a warrior,
    one with self-control than one who takes a city.

This is an important principle to learn, and the ones who have learned it (both the righteous and the wicked) have achieved great success in life. Even the wicked know the truth of this proverb. Anger is a powerful passion. Anger can increase strength due to the rush of adrenaline, giving an individual the power to accomplish more than expected. But it is the adrenaline, not the anger, that produces energy, and the key to success is harnessing the adrenaline so that you control it rather than be controlled.

I remember a basketball team of talented players that nevertheless struggled because of the inability of most of the players to handle anger. The most talented member often had to sit on the bench because of losing her anger during the game. She would get fouled, then get mad, and then get reckless. Another player would sulk if the ball was stolen from her. But there was another player who would get knocked down, perhaps have the ball stolen, but would immediately bounce back up and keep playing aggressively. Indeed, she would take advantage of the opposing players by getting them angry with her aggressive play. She did not need anger to motivate her. She simply kept focused on her goal.

It is the one who keeps focused, who remains patient and perseveres that wins and keeps the victory. That is the point of the second half of the proverb: “he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Many persons have won victories in sports or business or the military, only to lose what they gained. Their anger got them the burst of energy to win the battle, but they had not the wisdom to know what to do when they won. Essential to military success is knowing ones limits and not overstretching. An army can win too much territory too quickly, exposing itself to counterattack.

Anger can be helpful and even the right emotion to have depending on the circumstance. But the key is that we must control our anger to make it useful rather than let anger control us, which is what happens most of the time. We should be angry at injustice; sometimes it takes anger to get us doing something that normally we would be afraid to do or indifferent about. Even then, the anger needs to be harnessed, controlled by our wisdom. It is difficult to do; thus, we need to be those who are slow to anger.

 

Acts 18

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos

18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.

23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor[a] and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

11 February 2021

Proverbs 16:31

Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
    it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Gray hair is a crown of glory. We think it is gained in a trying life. “You kids are enough to give me gray hair!” “I didn’t have gray hair until I took this job.” We envy the man or woman able to enter middle age with no gray hairs. If Solomon is trying to lure us into living a righteous life with the promise of gray hair as our crown, he needs to hire a marketing firm. This will not fly. Would you like to turn your hair gray? Try living a righteous life.

This proverb comes out of a culture that honors old age. The law, in Leviticus 19:32, commanded respect: You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. In general, the older the person, the more respect he or she was given for possessing wisdom. The elders of Jewish society were the authorities and judges. Thus the term, which originally refers to age, took on the added meaning of leader. Proverb 20:29, which says, The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair, is not exalting a hair color but wisdom. Young men have strength; old men (and women) have wisdom.

Even so, the real focus is not wisdom but righteous living. It is being a righteous person, i.e. a person who is morally good, treats others justly, and is devoted to God. Long, productive life is often the reward for such persons, whose gray hair serves as evidence.

God rewards a good life with length of life. But also to the point is that living a righteous life avoids the pitfalls of the wicked and foolish life so that one is able to live out ones days. How many men and women have died young because of their foolish ways? Poor decisions about lifestyles, ways to pursue pleasure, were as Proverbs 16:25 says, seemed right at the time, but in truth were ways to death. Do you want to live to the age of gray hairs? Then focus not on how to live longer, but how to walk along the path of righteousness. God already has your days numbered. What matters is how you live those days to his glory.

 

Acts 17

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.[a] But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

In Berea

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

In Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

10 February 2021

Proverbs 16:30

Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity;
    whoever purses their lips is bent on evil.

Be aware of the subtlety by which the wicked deceive – the unscrupulous salesman and the stranger who seem overly familiar with you; the caller who has a “great deal” for you; the “friend” who wants to show you something new. There are many people who wickedly want to harm you or take advantage of you. There are many more who just want to make an extra dollar or close a deal that is not necessarily bad but may not be best for you.

In this sinful world you must be on your guard, knowing that danger often comes from seemingly innocent and even good sources – the person who seems so nice, so sincere. Pay attention to signs that indicate questionable intentions. Do not be put into a position where you feel like you owe someone your business or a favor. The wicked take advantage of good people by making them feel like they owe them the favor of buying into a special deal or for being so attentive to them, etc.

Be alert. If you have gotten caught in such an arrangement, go now to a trusted friend for help in getting out of trouble. If you are considering such involvement, do not act without turning to a trusted friend. Do not yield to pressure tactics.

And remember that dishonesty is rampant in the religious world and among so-called Christian evangelist stars who are happy to take your donations in the name of Jesus. If you are not connected to a church, you need to do so if only for protection against religious stars who are not accountable to anyone. I would say put your trust in God; but put your trust in God by putting trust in a sound church with faithful leaders who shepherd their people.

 

Acts 16

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.